Generalisations about beer culture opinion

Fashionable hops


  1. One of our friends: “So what exactly are hops? Are they the thing that makes up the main body of the beer? Are they a cereal or something?”
  2. Mark ‘Bottled Beer Year’ Dexter on beer labelling: “Hop varieties listed as an enhancement are great. But on their own – they leave too many clueless.”
  3. Another friend drinking our Citra pale ale: “What’s Citra? Is that a type of beer?”
  4. Description of Penzance Brewing Company’s Trink pale ale in the programme for a local beer festival: “…featuring the ever-so-now Citra hop”.
  5. Another brewer on Twitter: “We’ve given in and brewed a beer with Citra now everyone else has stopped going on about it.”
  6. Numerous beer geeks: “Needs more hops.”

Lots of people don’t know what hops are or what they contribute to beer.

Many others don’t understand that different hop varieties, in different proportions, added at different times in the process, affect the flavour of the finished beer.

And hardly anyone can actually tell the difference between one hop variety and another from the aroma and taste alone. (We certainly can’t, though we make a lucky guess now and then, and God knows we’ve tried.)

The very idea that there might be fashionable hops would surprise many.

In conclusion, we think hyper-awareness of hops is one of the biggest differences between those who simply enjoy beer and those who obsess over it, and it’s another thing to add to the list of perspective checks.

Picture by Duncan from Flickr Creative Commons.

6 replies on “Fashionable hops”

I would add the following:

7. “…fermented hops…”

8. Many people are equally unaware of barley and its role in beer. (I was about to start rambling about how wonderful barley is, but this is a post about hops.)

Recently I drank two beers with the same hop in, side by side. Undoubtedly I could discern similarities in flavour and aroma. This, inevitably, made me feel invincible, so a few days later on drinking another beer, led to me claiming it had Citra hops in. Of course it didn’t and I ended up feeling a bit daft.

Last week I tried some Mikkeller beers with both 10 and 19 hops in. They were really lovely. But they certainly reiterated the point that it isn’t about picking out the flavours of different hops, but really about whether all the ingredients work together to make an enjoyable beer that tastes good.

I wonder if this is possibly born of the wine trade, where grape varieties have become a tool to shift wine – and a very useful one too.

I’ve had people come to introductory wine classes I run and say ‘I just want to be able to say “This is a Pinot Noir*” when trying a wine blind.’ Great fun if you can get it right, but you’re not even expected to do that at Diploma level.

I’m sure big retailers would love it if hop varieties could become as ubiquitous as grape varieties, and if they did I’m sure they’d remain as misunderstood too.

* Insert grape variety of choice

One of the bonuses of beer blogging (and this involves you accepting that I have thousands of beer experts reading my blog) is that when I describe a beer, only ever perhaps having actually smelt one or two fresh hops at a meet the brewer evening about 9 years ago, I am very unlikely to correctly guess which hop is prominent in it.

Thus having pissed in the wind (figuratively) I then just sit back and wait for someone, like a brewer, to tell me I’m wrong. But no-one has, yet.

This lack of helpful or critical hop clarification suggests that either I am always right or no-one else feels confident enough to identify the hop either. Which is a shame, since I love Citra hopped beers… I thought.

Tim – and yeast, and water, and fermentation temp, and conditioning… Awesome respect to brewers who turn out consistent flavours with all those variables.

Gareth – really interesting point on the wine comparative – as someone who knows very little about wine I will admit it was very late in life I even worked out that Pinot Noir was a type of grape. So much of wine branding / packaging / marketing takes it for granted you will know (or are prepared to find out) what Crianza means, for example.

Pintsizedticker & Wee Beefy – if you don’t tell, we won’t, either…

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